The Halong Bay International Heritage Marathon 2018 is not yet a mega running event with tens and thousands of runners in attendance. This year, only about 2,000 runners joined the event across all categories. But I won’t be surprised if the Halong Bay Marathon will continue to double its attendance in the coming years. The race is ready to become a world class running event.
The Halong Bay Marathon is my last race for the year. I signed up for the half marathon event hoping that I will break the sub-2 hours target that I have been preparing for.
I signed up with the 3D-2N Tour Package. Adding the tour package is expensive but it was really worth it. The Halong Bay Marathon turned out to be my best race-cation yet.
My 2-hour Target
During the race briefing, I started to have doubts with a sub-2 hour finish. The route includes a 150 meter climb on the Bai Chai bridge. I trained for speed on a uphill but I am not prepared for such a steep climb. And I have to tackle the bridge twice.
Except for the bridge, the route has been flat. I was able to keep my 9 min/mi pace. However, the climb to the bridge was too steep to maintain a similar pace. I tried to keep up during the first climb but my pace dropped to 10 min/mi instead. That is already a minute more than my sub-2 hour target. I decided to let my sub-2 goal wait for another event and enjoy the rest of the race instead.
The route along Halong Bay is beautiful. You can already see the world famous limestones at the starting line. The 21K route also takes you to the busy fish market and many modern structures along the bay.
The best scenes are on top of Bai Chai Bridge where you can see a panorama of new and old buildings, the vast body of water and the outlines of thousands of islets in the horizon. The bridge itself is an engineering feat. And you can also see the worlds tallest Cable Car Tower as recognized by the Guinness Book of Records.
The race provided all the basics. Water and sports drinks were enough. It was probably every 2.5 KMs in the some parts and some at 5KM apart. There were few KM markers though. The roads are not fully closed but it there wasn’t many cars or motorcycles yet. Running the 21K course was safe.
Race results were out in a few days. It was accurate with split times provided. The race photos are excellent also. The photos are for sale though. Yet, it was cheaper than most races since you only need to pay 15 USD for all photos you are in.
I finished the race in 2:02:44. Not bad at all. I am getting closer to my first sub-2 hour finish. I had a negative split with a 4:12 min/km pace in the last 5KMs. I did not expect myself running that pace.
My official time though is 2:10:01. I made a “lutang” moment upon arriving at the starting line.
When I saw the beautiful rock formations, I was enchanted. I decided to take a video of the runners during the gun start. I thought that it will really look nice to capture the runners on the streets with the islets as their background.
I found a nice location and waited for the gun start. The countdown started and I pressed the record button.
It was only later that I realized that I was taking a video of the 21K runners. I should have been with them at the starting line!!! Instead, I was somewhere else taking their video. As a result, I started the race at 8 minutes late and I was probably the last runner to leave the starting line.
But luckily, I ran with my best time for the year and managed to finish 106/506 in the 21K.
Halong Bay Marathon Tour Package
The Halong Bay Marathon experience did not end with the running event. The 3D-2N tour package was the ultimate race-cation.
Runners were treated with a sumptuous, dinner buffet. Unfortunately, many runners can’t eat as much since we will be running in about 6 or 8 hours after dinner. Buffet breakfast was also served for 21KM runnes at 5AM. But I only ate a bread and some fruits.
Shuttle services was provided making it easy to go to the starting line and back to the hotel after the finish.
The best part of the tour is the overnight cruise in Halong Bay. The view in Halong Bay is just spectacular. Staying in the top deck of a slow moving cruise ship was very relaxing and peaceful.
I highly recommend that you avail of the tour package. It can be annoying to follow a tour schedule like when to eat, when to wake up, and when to leave. I sometimes prefer to travel at my own terms. But the entire experience was excellent. I have no regrets joining the overnight cruise.
You can check my other photos of the overnight cruise at Halong Bay here.
Runners in Bus Number 2
Being part of the Halong Bay Marathon Tour Package allows you to meet new friends from around the world. And since everyone is a runner, there is no dull moment. You will never run out of stories to tell and stories to hear.
I met Jacques from France and Bernd from Germany. Both of them travel around the world joining running events. We all joined the 21K event. Jacques is 66 years old and finished first among the three of us with a time of 1:54:44!
Mickey from the Hawaii was my roommate. Both of us did not avail of the single room option of the tour package and ended up sharing a room in the hotel and in the cruise. Mickey is a retired physical education teacher. He is also 66 years old and finished the marathon at 03:58:45. He is preparing for the marathon in Singapore this December and an ultramarathon in Hongkong in 2019. He can race-walk the entire marathon and yet can finish it below 5 hours!!!
Of course, you get to meet fellow Filipinos also. Pinoys are everywhere and I’m glad to meet them in the tour. They helped me take a break from talking in English all the time. I did not get an injury from running but I might have some nosebleed.
Halong Bay International Heritage Marathon is a nice running event that offers most of what you expect from an international event. The scenery is really great along the route. The elevation on the bridge for the 21K and 42K runners is very challenging though. There is not much fanfare at the finish line but it was well organized.
You will love the weather at Halong Bay. It’s cooler with a temperature at around 17-25 degrees. Almost like Baguio. There are several places to visit before and after the race like the Sun World Ha Long Complex or the cruise in Halong Bay.
The tour package is excellent. I would recommend getting the 3D-2N also. This is a great experience if you are going as a pair or as a group.
Halong Bay Marathon is usually held at the last Sunday of November. Next year, the Halong Bay International Heritage Marathon is scheduled on November 24, 2019.
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